Not intended to replace medical or psychiatric care. If in doubt, do not follow or else check with your mental health provider before proceeding.
Stress is part of being human and can be helpful in protecting us from harm and making the wrong move in a situation. Stress can also evolve into anxiety which can be crippling at times. I would love to say that no stress is good, but then I would lying on the beach 100% of the time! Stress is truthfully part of what makes us tick.
What to do when stress turns into chronic anxiety? Anyone who has lived with anxiety knows it is not useful, but it is hard to get out of its grip. Why is that? The brain gets accustomed to it. The antidote is therefore working with the brain. The good thing is that you can be in charge of this process! When I realized my body was responsible for 99.99% of my anxiety and that I could get the same things done without being anxious, I was so happy!
Anxiety takes advantage of your nervous system’s fight or flight response, called the Sympathetic Nervous System.
Here are some things you can do.
- Do whatever you can to be fully aware of your feelings and symptoms as well as your environment. Notice the color of the paint on the wall, the temperature of the room, the sounds around you and how your body feels. This puts the executive part of your brain in charge. Just by having an “observer” (you), the grip of anxiety may lessen.
- Vagus Nerve Calming: Place the palm of your hand over your stomach and breath so that you feel your stomach against your hand. The vagus nerve running down the front of your body is responsible for the fight or flight reaction and placing your hand there is thought to calm it down.
- Controlling your breathing is also one of the quickest and most effective ways to control your nervous system (and anxiety). As you notice your breathing, begin to slowly modulate your breathing and slow it down little by little.
- Humor creates a wonderful break in panic, fear and anxiety! If you can make fun of a situation, you can release the grip of anxiety. You might try coming up with a funny or favorite image when you are calm and remind yourself of it when you are in the midst of anxiety. It can break the “tape” or “loop” of your anxiety.
- Staring at some kind of a pattern until it is in soft focus can cause the sympathetic nervous system to fade into the background and allow the opposite, the parasympathetic nervous system to take over. Checked patterns with different colors can be good for this. You may want to use this along with controlling your breathing. This may not be indicated for everyone. Check with your psychiatrist if in doubt.
These techniques will not be enough to help everyone, but they are good habits for everyone to have. Having a regular appointment with a therapist every week can help tremendously, too. My feeling is that your mind expects the appointment and arranges itself around your ongoing work.
Walk in peace and joy